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Director General Sees Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for IAEA

Dr. ElBaradei addressing the Plenary Assembly at the 53rd IAEA General Conference. Vienna, 14 September 2009. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Tremendous challenges and opportunites lie ahead for the world´s top nuclear organization, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said today in his opening address to the Agency´s week-long General Conference held in Vienna.

"In 50 years´ time, there may be several dozen additional countries with nuclear power programmes, mostly in what today is known as the developing world," he said.

"Demand for nuclear techniques in medicine, agriculture and other areas will continue to grow. For developing countries, the Agency will remain the first port of call."

Dr. ElBaradei also said that nuclear disarmament is finally back on the world´s agenda and the IAEA could assume a significant additional verification role.

"This would be a natural extension of the Agency´s work," he commented.

Yet, the IAEA´s budget remains an issue of concern, Dr. ElBaradei said.

"Unfortunately, despite our proven record of effectiveness and efficiency, we find ourselves fighting exactly the same battles for resources at the start of every budget cycle," he commented.

Dr. ElBaradei´s statement reviewed progress made and future outlooks in the areas of nuclear safeguards, security, safety and peaceful development.

The General Conference this year features a two-day Scientific Forum on the issue of Energy for Development. Hundreds of delegates and governmental representatives are expected at the Forum, which opens Tuesday, 15 September.

Excerpts of the Director General´s statement in key areas follow. The full text is accessible here.

Nuclear Power: "The world seems set for a significant expansion in the use of nuclear power, with scores of countries having told the Agency that they are interested in introducing it."

Dr. ElBaradei also highlighted the fact that a considerable expansion in the number of nuclear power reactors throughout the world will create extra work for the IAEA, and that the Agency has already adjusted its priorities to focus more on the nuclear power programmes of newcomers.

Nuclear Applications: "We should all concentrate on delivering assistance where we can, to help provide energy for development, feed the hungry and heal the sick."

The Director General, however, stressed the fact that the Agency´s ability to deliver assistance is being hampered by lack of funding.

"Demand for our help greatly exceeds our ability to provide it. We can and should do much more, but that requires a dramatic increase in funding which regrettably has not been made available to us," he said.

Nuclear Verification: Dr. ElBaradei said that the global non-proliferation landscape has changed radically in the last two decades, and that, in response, the way in which the Agency implements safeguards has undergone a metamorphosis.

"We have moved beyond simple verification of declared nuclear material at declared facilities to assessing information on a State´s entire nuclear programme and, most importantly, verifying the absence of undeclared activities.

"Our ability to detect possible clandestine nuclear material and activities depends on the extent to which we are given the necessary legal authority, technology and resources," he said.

Dr. ElBaradei warned the General Conference that the IAEA faces continuing major shortcomings in all three areas, which, if not addressed, could put the entire non-proliferation regime at risk.

The Director General also spoke of the importance of diplomacy and negotiations in the field of nuclear verification.

"We must keep open the channels of communication with those with whom we have issues that need to be resolved rather than seeking to isolate them," he said.

Dr. ElBaradei further reviewed safeguards developments concerning Iran.

Assurance of Supply: "In 2003, I expressed my belief that the fuel cycle could prove to be the Achilles Heel of the non-proliferation regime and raised the idea of putting the fuel cycle under multinational control.

"I recently put proposals before the Board of Governors to establish a low enriched uranium (LEU) bank, and an LEU reserve in Russia, under Agency auspices.

"No country would have to give up any of its rights under the NPT, including the right to develop its own fuel cycle. Our ultimate goal should continue to be the full multinationalization of the sensitive parts of the fuel cycle to guarantee supply of nuclear fuel and consolidate our efforts to move to a world free of nuclear weapons."

Nuclear Safety & Security: "It is in all our interests to ensure that the highest safety standards are upheld everywhere... But it is disconcerting that nuclear security is still funded almost entirely from voluntary contributions, which come with many conditions attached and are both insufficient and unpredictable."

Management of the Agency: "The sums needed to put Agency funding on a secure footing for the coming decades are insignificant, especially compared to the magnitude and range of risks the Agency has to address."

Future of the Agency: "The IAEA´s dual mandate of security and development is unique. We are part of a complex web of international security mechanisms which need to work in harmony if we are to effectively serve the people who put their trust in us."

Dr. ElBaradei concluded his statement speaking about his 12-year period at the helm of IAEA, which is coming to an end at the end of November 2009.

"I am deeply grateful to all of my colleagues throughout the Agency, past and present, for their sterling professionalism, their loyalty and their dedication," he said.

Dr. ElBaradei also congratulated his successor, Director General Designate Amano, wishing him every success and offering him his full support.

"I trust that he will lead the Agency with vision, impartiality and courage," he said.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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